If you are aged 16 or over and are single, divorced or widowed and are not closely related you are free to get married or form a civil partnership in the UK although if you are aged between 16 and 18 and in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you need permission from your parents or guardians.
Marriage registration laws are always subject to change as we have seen with the recent changes regarding same sex marriages but at the time of writing this article same sex couples can marry or convert their civil partnerships into marriage in England, Wales and Scotland.
Marriage Registration Notice
If you wish to get married or form a civil partnership in England and Wales there are two steps you should take, you must first give notice at your local registry office, this will usually incur an administration cost then you must have a civil or religious ceremony at least 28 days after giving notice, this is a pitfall many couples make, give notice at your local registry office sooner rather than later as you cannot legally be married if notice is given at too short notice. These are the legal requirement but if you are having a religious ceremony then your faith may require you to take separate step such as having your banns read, you should seek advice from your religious body or spiritual leader for more advice on this subject.
Marriage Registration Guidelines
During marriage registration at your local register office you will need to tell them where you plan to get married, if you plan to marry abroad you should ask the oversees authority if you need a certificate of no impediment to marry in this country. Your notice to marry will be displayed publicly for 28 days and you need to have lived in the registration district for at least 7 days before registering. Once you registered you must marry within 1 year or within 3 months in Scotland so this must be considered in your planning. Under special circumstances you can apply for a reduced notice period of 15 days but do your research before considering this option.
When attending the local registry office you should take documentation to prove your identity, you need proof of you name, age nationality and address. Check with your local authority which documentation they will accept but most accept standard forms of identification like passports, driving licences, birth certificates and for your address, bank or building society statements or recent water, gas or electricity bills. A fee of £35 per person will be charged by the authority for your marriage registration.
If you have been divorced or widowed you are also required to take a decree absolute or final order or the death certificate of your former partner.
If you are taking part in a religious ceremony then the wedding must take place in a registered religious building for it to be recognised under UK marriage registration laws.
If you are having a religious ceremony or you are a same sex couple then the rules can vary somewhat, you should consult with your religious leader or local authority to ensure you know all the rules and regulations before making definite plans.
Wedding Ceremony Registration
When it comes to the ceremony itself there are rules and regulations which must be satisfied to enter a legal union, all of this information will be discussed with the registrar beforehand.
If you are getting married then you must exchange some formal wording, you are usually permitted to customise your wording should you wish whereas a civil partnership does not require the exchanging of vows but you can if you wish. You can usually include readings, songs or musical interlude into the ceremony with the agreement of the registrar. At least two witnesses must be present and both sign the register for the marriage registration to be legally recognised.
You will be required to pay a fee to register your civil partnership or marriage, the fee can vary between different authorities and on where you intend to have the ceremony, weddings which take place at the registry office are usually cheaper than those where the registrar has to travel.
You may have a civil ceremony or civil partnership at a registry office or a venue approved by the council in the area such as a hotel or country estate.